ERIC Identifier: ED477608
Publication Date: 2003-12-00
Author: Brynildssen, Shawna
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Mass Communication: Technology Use and Instruction. ERIC
There are a number of compelling reasons for incorporating technology into
the instruction of journalism and mass communication. As technology plays an
increasingly important role in our lives, it becomes vital to expose journalism
students to that technology. Some scholars have gone so far as to state that any
journalism school that does not assimilate new technology is ignoring the facts
of the rapidly changing environment (Singer, Craig, Allen, Whitehouse,
Dimitrova, & Sanders, 1996).
And indeed, new technology is heavily used throughout the journalism and mass
communication industry (Bowen & Durbin, 2001). With newspapers across the
country producing online versions, and television stations broadcasting programs
using high-definition images, it seems irrational for journalism schools not to
follow what practitioners are employing. In fact, according to some researchers,
the very nature of journalism requires its educators to take a proactive
approach to using technology in instruction. Sutherland (2001) posits that
because it is the job of journalists to stay on the cutting edge, journalism
schools should be "pioneers" in using the new technology.
There is another practical reason why journalism and mass communication
educators want to use new technology: because it is cost effective (Huesca,
2000). However, it may cost more at the beginning when all the channels and
equipments are not fully established.
CURRENT TECHNOLOGY USE
To date, the uses of new technology
in the teaching of journalism and mass communication education can be broken
into four main categories: 1) class instruction, 2) online syllabi/materials, 3)
distance learning/online courses, and 4) technological literacy (knowledge and
skills of new media technologies) within the curriculum.
"Class instruction". Computer-assisted and multimedia instruction are commonly
used in American college and university classrooms (Hester, 1999). More and more
classrooms are being designed-or retrofitted-with multimedia equipment that
allows teachers to combine video, audio, and electronic text in their
instruction. Computer-assisted and multimedia instruction is particularly
beneficial for journalism and mass communication educators; it can contribute to
student engagement and success in skill courses, such as news writing and
copyediting. Students rated a computer writing program higher than a paper
exercise, while teachers reported that students made great improvement in
grammar by using computerized writing tools (Smith, 1990).
"Online syllabi/materials". New technology allows teachers to create content and
post course information online. Online syllabi are the most widely used teaching
tool among college professors. In addition to course syllabi, teachers can put
post-class notes, reading materials, assignments, class discussions, student
works, tests, grades, and other items that are not easy for students to access
in traditional syllabi. In view of this advantage, many universities are
developing school-wide systems that offer a website for each course offered.
"Distance learning". The virtual classroom is not yet used to its full potential
by journalism and mass communication schools. Although some schools offer online
courses that allow students not to meet in class, many still require students to
live near campus (Arant, 1996). Distance education is still in the trial
process, largely because of instruction methods. The major hurdle is not the
technology infrastructure, but having effective instruction without a classroom
setting (Arant, 1996).
"Technological literacy". Panici (1998) describes technological literacy as
"understanding both the why and how of new media communication tools." This goes
beyond pure technological skills, which are relatively easy to obtain, to
encompass critical thinking skills and key issues surrounding the new
technology-issues such as privacy, intellectual property, and assessing source
reliability. Pavlik (2003) notes that there is
"...something much deeper and more important that our students need to learn
in the context of new media, something that goes well beyond the qualities of
craft and skill. They need to learn about the ways digital technologies are
quietly-and not-so-quietly-transforming the world." (p. 314)
Initially, many journalism and mass
communication educators attempted to incorporate the teaching of technological
literacy into existing curricula (Gunaratne & Lee, 1996). However, it is
difficult to cover all issues relating to the new technology in existing
courses. Consequently, in the 1990s, the curricula of journalism and mass
communication schools began to undergo a transformation, which has only
accelerated. A growing number of schools began to offer new programs and courses
that dealt directly with new media, such as online journalism and
computer-assisted reporting. Some schools took a more basic approach,
restructuring their existing courses and degree programs.
Although some schools initially treated online mass communication as a
separate track in their undergraduate curriculum (Dennis, Meyer, Shyam, Pryor,
Roger, Chen, et al., 2003), most experts argue against this segregation of "new"
and "traditional" technology. In fact, according to Nicholson (2001), some of
the more advanced journalism schools are not only teaching online and
traditional journalism in the same major-they are actually redesigning their
curriculum to merge content that has historically been taught in separate
courses. For example, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the
University of Kansas recently combined six undergraduate tracks into two: 1)
news/information (news, editorial, broadcast, and magazine journalism) and 2)
strategic communication (management, marketing, advertising, and PR). Similarly,
Emerson College in Boston now has its broadcast and print journalism student
taking the same introductory courses and capstone courses. The goal of these
mergers is to broaden the skill base of journalism graduate and better prepare
them for the new, multimedia nature of mass communication.
A second trend in curriculum change is toward practical, hands-on training.
Numerous schools are developing multimedia labs, online magazines, and digital
newsrooms-all of which expose students to technologies, practices, environments
that mimic those they will encounter in their professional lives (Nicholson,
2001). Pryor (2003) emphasizes the importance of this kind of technical,
nuts-and-bolts training, noting that the publishing of electronic content is
inextricably linked to its creation.
As journalism educators rethink curriculum, a number of them are reaching out
to other disciplines. According to Smith (1990), as professors have seen the
need of acquiring new knowledge and techniques of new media themselves,
administrators have responded by hiring new faculty from computer or information
science departments. Pryor (2003) argues that this sort of interdisciplinary
approach is critical to the future success of journalism education: "On campus,
journalism educators will have to make room for new disciplines and build
bridges to schools of engineering, design, cinema-TV, business, philosophy,
linguistics, psychology, and elsewhere."
The general ideas driving technology use in
journalism schools seem to be ones of incorporation and inclusion-across
content, majors, and disciplines. By broadening their categories and integrating
the new with the traditional, educators better prepare journalism students for
both a workplace and a world that are being reshaped by technology.
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